Vibha Kagzi, Founder & CEO ReachIvy.com, a premium education and careers advisory site, pens an enlightening article outlining relevant factors that a student must keep in mind while zeroing in on the right choice of college
College selection can be an overwhelming process. Determining the right college is one of the most critical life decisions that you are going to make. At the same time, there is a smorgasbord of options, a wide range of factors that you need to consider, and an even larger array of online and community sources that will give you conflicting advice.
How do you build a path that is best for you? How can you structure your efforts and process the large amount of information to optimise the college search process? Here is a 11-step guide on how you can best organise your research and selection process:
1 Start early!: Ideally, you should start your college search process at least 2-3 years before applying to a college. This provides you ample time to plan better, thoroughly do your homework, build the appropriate profile, and collate all the relevant information prior to application deadlines.
2 Conduct a self-evaluation: Take a step back and identify your strengths and weaknesses. Understand what is the value of the degree to you. Are you trying to develop stronger leadership and team management skills? Or are you trying to get better at problem-solving? Are you interested in a salary increase, switching careers, networking opportunities or turbo charging your career growth? These are some of the critical questions that you need to ask yourself.
3 Create a list of factors that are most important to you: Identify your likes, dislikes, preferences and constraints. Think through all the factors and prioritise them based on your preferences, for example:
- Program Duration
- Financial aid
- Teaching style
- Employment Opportunities
4 Speak to your family: Seriously consider youir family members views into where they think you will excel. Have a clear discussion regarding the financial implications of applying and enrolling in a college abroad. But remember that although they know you best, they cannot solely determine what is best for you. You have to analyze yourself and narrow down on your options honestly and independently.
5 Get a mentor: Research the different options on how to choose a mentor to guide you through this spidery process. Pepper your shortlist with questions on their style of working, and ensure that they are the right fit for you. The right guidance can tip the scales in favour of an admittance to your dream school.
6 Set aside time each week: Fix a particular time in your calendar, with an agenda of specific outputs for what you need to complete each time. Specific outputs could be: online research, identifying and prioritising factors to narrow your search, conversations with mentors or current students, etc.
7Scour college websites: Research the schools that you are targetting, as each university and department has its own ethos, curriculum and admission requirements. To learn more about the school’s pedagogy and academic rigour, read department web pages, core curricula, and the university news pages to discover timely advancements in faculty and student research and achievements. To imbibe a campus vibe, take a virtual tour, understand the university’s mission statement, read the campus newspaper, and look into career and academic advising support for international students.
8 Speak to current students, alumni and professors: How much faculty support would you get on expanding your pet renewable energy project? What career opportunities do you have as an international student abroad or upon returning to India? How active is the advance group on campus? The best insights you are going to get into answering such questions that matter the most is through the college’s student body and faculty.
9 Attend college fairs in your city: Attend information sessions and college fairs in your city to get an understanding of the college directly from its admissions team.
10 Visit your colleges: Visit a set of shortlisted colleges. Ideally, the best way to get an insight into a college is to visit its campus, engage directly with not just the admissions committee, but also the students and faculty.
11Collate information and identify right fit colleges: Based on the homework conducted and your own profile, identify colleges that are the best match. Do you have the standardised test scores, academic background, work history and profile to get into this school and does the college meet your criteria?
Remember to keep an open mind through this process. You might be surprised by the schools you end up choosing. Your college experience lays the foundation for your future, so it’s imperative you find an environment where you can thrive.